Massachusetts would levy fines on supermarkets and restaurants that mislabel seafood and become the first state in the nation to ban the sale of escolar, an oily species known as the “ex-lax” fish that is often served as sushi, under legislation expected to be filed Friday.
The bill, proposed by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, comes more than a year after a Boston Globe report revealed widespread seafood substitution in restaurants across Massachusetts. In many instances, less desirable and cheaper species took the place of fresh local fish. A follow-up investigation published last fall found most of those restaurants were still mislabeling seafood.
Businesses caught misrepresenting fish such as Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut, red snapper, or grey sole could face fines of up to $800 and have their license to operate suspended or revoked after repeat offenses, according to the legislation.
“We want to make sure if you’re led to believe that you’re eating fish off the bay, it really is off the bay in Massachusetts, and not 3,000 miles or 6,000 miles away,” said state Representative Ted Speliotis, a Danvers Democrat and cochairman of the joint committee. “It’s an attempt on a statewide level to bring some standards to the fish industry.”
The law would also prohibit the sale of escolar, frequently mislabeled as white tuna or albacore at sushi restaurants, and punish first-time violators with a minimum $400 fine or license suspension. Albacore, a white tuna desired for its mild taste, is not related to escolar and typically costs 20 percent more.
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